Sunday, January 20, 2019
Dear Members of the BASD Community,
This has been a tough week in the Butler Area School District and our community. This community has seen its fair share of tragedy and adversity from loss of life, fire, major incidents, power outages, poverty, substance abuse and a myriad of other challenges.
Last year, we administered the Pennsylvania at Risk Youth Survey (PAYS). This summer, we released the full report for our community to review.
A few key points in the risk factors portion of the PAYS report jump out to me. Although, we aren’t the leaders in youth drug abuse, our students self reported using drugs at a rate equal to or lower than youth across the state. Our students also indicated that they lack the feeling of safe. Additionally, most have indicated they have experienced the loss of a loved one or friend.
I often ask myself, “How can we help our students navigate these challenges at school, at home and in our community?”
Of course there are measures we can take and programs we can implement, but at the end of the day, I believe forming and maintaining positive, supportive relationships with adults at school, at home and in the community will have the greatest impact.
According to the PAYS report, “Rewards for positive participation in activities helps youth bond to the community.” The PAYS report measures: Prosocial Involvement, Family Attachment, Opportunities for Prosocial Involvement, Rewards for Prosocial Involvement, Belief in the Moral Order, and Religiosity.
What strikes me about each of these categories is that there really isn't a course, a class or curriculum for us to address them. Once again, it speaks to the fabric of the community. Who we are and who we hope are youth will become.
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, we have seen both tragedy and adversity in our community. Unfortunately, I often have a front row seat. My role is unique in that I am often at the epicenter of whatever the issue is, interacting with the victim’s family, first responders, social service and governmental agencies, teachers, counselors, principals, parents, students and community members.
Where I find comfort is within all of these interactions. I get to see the best of humanity. Sometimes it occurs in very private moments that I’ll keep to myself. Sometimes I get to witness the small acts of kindness and compassion that often go unnoticed. And sometimes, I get to see people pulling together to make a major impact.
Whether the gestures are large or small, I consistently see members of this community who refuse to give up on others. From serving food to those who are hungry, to clothing those who are cold, to providing a warm space when houses are cold and trying to save a boy’s life -- that is what makes Butler a special place. All of you are what make our community so special.
At the start of my tenure at Butler last year, I was told by a community member that we are a community on the decline. That person is mistaken. Your passion, kindness and commitment to others is what makes ours a community on the rise.
I hope you choose to be part of a community on the rise.
Let’s begin by acknowledging each other. When we walk past each other, let’s say hello. Let’s model the kindness toward one another that we want to see our own children demonstrate.
Find a way to volunteer. Many opportunities exist in our community. If you are willing to work with children, we would love to have you help at our schools. Let’s show our youth how to be an active and productive member of our community.
Form a new relationship or strengthen an existing one. Be a source of support for someone who needs it. Let’s help our children experience positive, supportive relationships with adults at school, at home and in the community.
Finally, we never know when or how we will be called upon to help others. If and when your time comes, I encourage all of you to be open to that call for help. Let’s all lead by example.
Brian J. White, Jr. Ed.D.
Butler Area School District